Until I came to college, I assumed that all Christians were Republicans. I had only ever known one Christian who claimed to be a Democrat- a favorite theater teacher who I assumed hadn’t thought his political principles through all the way, despite being one of the cheeriest and most intelligent individuals that I have ever known. The reasoning seemed to be pretty clear-cut. When it came to issues that the Bible spoke on, Republicans took the biblical position while Democrats took the opposite. The Bible spoke of the sanctity of life in the womb, so Republicans opposed abortion while Democrats encouraged it. The Bible said that marriage was only to be between one man and one woman, so Republicans sought to make this the national norm while Democrats rejected this teaching.
Those two examples were probably it, actually. I don’t think I realized it, but I harbored the assumption that God only cared (or at least, mostly only cared) about these two issues. College challenged this perspective for me. First, I met more Christians with opposite political convictions, and they were almost always more active in serving the community than I was. Next, when I began to study the Bible more seriously, I realized that it spoke to a host of other issues I hadn’t considered: poverty alleviation, environmental care, peace, and other issues where the Republicans appeared to have the less biblical stance.
At this point in my story, it sounds like I am describing how my Christian convictions led me to become a Democrat. This is not the case. I think Democrats have a better, godlier platform on poverty issues than Republicans, who typically appeal to a wealthier demographic. I think Republicans are justified in their outrage at the prevalence of abortion in the world, a tragedy that Democrats are more often unwilling to face, despite their old adage of “safe, legal, and rare.” I cannot, in good conscience, join a political party (either in real membership or practical, like those who aren’t official members but vote only for that party) because none of them represent me in all of my convictions.
That said, there’s another reason why I think Christians shouldn’t claim to be a Republican or a Democrat: each and every one of us is already a member of another party.
Why was Christ crucified? He was seen as a political threat by both religious and civil authorities. The title “Christ” or “Messiah” literally means “one anointed for leadership” and was synonymous with “King.” When Jesus accepted the title of “King” and preached about a new Kingdom, he was directly challenging the powers of his day. Caesar and Christ cannot both be Lord. Citizenship in the Kingdom of God necessitates allegiance in all aspects of life- spiritual, religious, economic, and political. Each and every Christian is a member of a political party: The Kingdom of God. A servant cannot serve two masters.
Political parties demand our allegiance to a given power structure. They teach us that change comes by instilling an individual of their choosing into a political position. Christ calls us to pledge ourselves to Him alone, and that change comes when His people follow his example of humility and self-deprivation.
I see the appeal of claiming to be a member of a certain party. When I thought of myself as a Republican, decision making was simple: the way forward was support of a particular entity. I didn’t have to think through every issue before I went to the ballot box; I only had to look at the letter beside the name, because the candidate with the “R” was always the right choice. Now that I refuse to affiliate with the party, every decision has to be made individually, and each person on the ballot must be painstakingly researched before I pull the lever. It’s more work, but this has always been what Christ called us to. If we aren’t willing to go issue-by-issue, person-by-person, we’re selling our ability to decide for ourselves for less to think about. We’re taking a shortcut that has huge ramifications.
Christians should be politically active. Christ calls us to use all available means to do good. We cannot, however, rely on those in political power to dictate how we will think about pressing issues. God has a political party, and it’s the Kingdom that His Son brought to the Earth through his life, death, and resurrection. No party speaks for God, and those who speak for a party necessarily don’t speak for God. Brothers and sisters, in all that we do, may we pledge our allegiance to Christ and Christ alone. Anything less than this- any mixed loyalty to Christ and to worldly powers- is unbecoming of the Gospel.